Monday, 11 September 2023
Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers
Answers To Questions
It was interesting to listen to the contributions by senators this afternoon. I think it's also always worth correcting the record.
Yes, it is very important, Senator Cadell—always worth correcting the record. The Albanese government has, since it's come in, had a regular and enduring dialogue with our partners, particularly the United States, on a range of issues, and this does include space. As a matter of courtesy, Senator Colbeck, ahead of the announcement that we made, the US was informed about the program not actually proceeding.
Since coming to government, we've had to make very tough decisions about the state of our books before us to find $40 billion in savings so that we can begin to rein in the deficit the coalition left when they left government. We also had to tackle inflation, put downward pressure on interest rates and start the hard work to address the $1 trillion of debt that we inherited from those opposite. But those opposite just seem to want to forget that part of history. I'm sure they would have reacted in the same way that we have should it have been the other way around.
As we continue to repair the budget, the government has announced it will not be proceeding with the previous government's National Space Mission for Earth Observation program. The Minister for Industry, Science and Technology has been upfront and very transparent about that. While there is some disappointment with the decision, it is understandable. It's important to emphasise that no tenders have been put to market and no commercial contracts have actually been signed. The Morrison government announced this program back in March 2022, just weeks out from the last election. If those opposite think that this program was so important, why did they leave it to the last few months of their tenure? It was for the same reason that they waited nine months to announce the modern manufacturing grants and then announced them in the shadow of the 2022 election campaign.
Let's also not forget that they voted no to Labor's $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund, which the minister has said will open the door to the Australian space companies to apply for funding. The government recognises that the space sector can make a valuable contribution to Australia's modern economy. We're about announcements and we're about deliverables, unlike those opposite when they were in government in the last term. The space sector can be an essential ingredient for our nation to achieve greater economic complexity, supporting adjacent industries from agriculture to resources all the way through to advanced manufacturing, which we need to do a lot of in this country. Space can also play a significant role in developing Australia's emerging critical technologies like quantum, artificial intelligence, robotics and others. These are priority areas this government wants to invest in, and that is why we've created the National Reconstruction Fund: to address those significant shortfalls.
Space both leverages and creates markets for these technologies, feeding into their development for the benefit of all industries and for the wellbeing of our community. While it might be the glamour stories like rocket launches that grab headlines, we know businesses powering the Australian space industry are getting on with the job of developing skills and technology that help Australians every day. Whether this is in deploying technology to track bushfires from orbit or developing autonomous space systems with applications in mining and agriculture, the space industry is delivering for Australians, and the Albanese government wants to back that practical work.
It's this work and the work of companies like Fleet Space Technologies. Fleet's network of mini-satellites and ground sensors is manufactured in Adelaide, helping the mining sector to conduct mineral exploration activities more quickly, safely, affordably and with minimal environmental impact. Fleet also run inhouse programs to train up the next generation of STEM talent from a range of backgrounds. These are the kinds of practical applications of space technology that we really need to get on board with and back.
One of our first acts as government was to announce the approval for NASA to launch a series of rockets from the Arnhem Space Centre in the Northern Territory, a historic moment for the space industry here in Australia.